Category Archives: NIMBY
Not In My Back Yard
Four years ago, as the economy was entering a devastating recession, swaths of rural Pennsylvania were booming.
Energy companies were using hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to tap the vast natural gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale underlying much of the Keystone State. In Wayne County, these corporations offered struggling farmers lucrative leases for mineral rights.
“Land here became a whole different asset class,” says Tim Meagher, a real-estate broker whose family settled in the area in the 1840s.
Today there is no drilling in Wayne County, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its June 11 issue. The Delaware River Basin Commission, a regional regulatory agency, has declared a moratorium while it studies the environmental impact. Gas companies have invoked force majeure clauses to put their contracts with property owners on hold.
Investors who bought farmland are stuck, and farmers who expected to retire on gas royalties are back to eking out a living from agriculture.
Meanwhile, fracking opponents are brandishing the example of Wayne County as they fight shale energy exploration across the country.
The number of drilling permits issued in Pennsylvania soared from 122 in 2007 to 3,337 in 2011, according to the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research at Penn State University. Much of the activity was concentrated in the western and central parts of the state, which have a history of energy exploration and geology conducive to gas production.
As the price of gas climbed, drillers looking for fresh land started eyeing the verdant, rolling pastures of Wayne County in (26452MF) the northeastern part of the state.
Companies such as Hess, Chesapeake Energy (CHK) (CHK), and Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) (COG) dispatched “land men” to go door to door to persuade homeowners to sign mineral leases. Farmers were getting $250 to more than $3,000 an acre to allow drilling on their property, says Meagher. Land that sold for $2,000 to $3,000 an acre in 2004 was going for as much as $10,000 an acre by 2009. Meagher says he often got calls from prospective investors in Manhattan, Boston, and beyond. To encourage more, he put property ads in the New York Post, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.
“I wanted to get my clients here the highest possible bid,” he says.
By the summer of 2009, a joint venture of Hess and Newfield Exploration (NFX) (NFX) had secured leases for 80,000 acres with the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, a group of 1,500 landowners formed to negotiate with the gas companies.
’People Here Struggle’
“It’s the biggest thing ever happened around here, in my lifetime at least,” says Alliance member Bob Rutledge, a dairy and beef farmer whose family has been in Wayne for 170 years. “People here struggle. The economy here sucks when it’s good. The farms are dying.” Spokesmen for Hess, Chesapeake, Cabot, and Newfield declined to comment.
Honesdale, the county seat, last saw a boom like this in the 1820s, when it was the starting point for the new Delaware & Hudson Canal. In March 2009, Leonard Schwartz, recently retired as chief executive officer of chemical company Aceto, reopened Honesdale’s 182-year-old Hotel Wayne. He gutted and redecorated its rooms and upgraded its restaurant and bar to accommodate out-of-town speculators and energy company officials with expense accounts.
“The gas companies were giving out money,” says Schwartz. “People were buying tractors, eating out. You felt it.”
As fracking fever spread, opposition to gas exploitation was building. In the spring of 2008, a gas company offered Josh Fox’s family almost $100,000 to drill on its Wayne County property, inspiring Fox, a filmmaker, to make the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland.”
The Oscar-nominated film, which shows water from a faucet catching fire, was shown on HBO and helped foment broader opposition to fracking. Fox and an alliance of conservation groups called on the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban the practice in Wayne County. They argued that the drilling technology, which involves injecting high-pressure jets of water and chemicals into underground rock formations, would pollute the river’s 14,000-square-mile basin, a source of drinking water for 15 million people.
In May 2009 the commission, which includes the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York as well as a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, declared that gas companies wanting to drill in Wayne County would need a permit from the DRBC as well as from the state of Pennsylvania.
Land men started pulling out of Wayne, according to local townspeople. A year later the commission announced that it would not issue permits and would study the impact of fracking.
The decision caught farmers and investors off guard.
“I had never even heard of this out-of-state commission,” says Jim Stracka, a contractor from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who joined with two New Jersey businessmen to form a company called Gasaholics to invest in Wayne County.
In 2008, Gasaholics paid $900,000 in cash for a 96-acre farm in northeastern Wayne. Stracka says he expected to lease his mineral rights for at least $3,000 an acre and hoped a producing well might generate as much as $50,000 a day in royalties.
“We went on that premise,” he says. “Then, the moratorium comes out of left field and the leases stop. Now we’re just sitting on it.”
The property remains vacant. A local farmer stops by on occasion to cut the land’s overgrowth for hay.
Rutledge fared better. Hess-Newbridge paid him $300,000 for the right to drill on his farm. Even so, he’s bitter at the prospect of not receiving royalties. He says his farm can’t compete with corporate operations, and that he’s been selling timber from his land, as well as portions of a century-old stone wall.
“The DRBC,” he says, “isn’t writing me a check. They’re just basically saying ‘screw you.’”
Drilling is not officially dead in Wayne County. In February 2011 the DRBC held 18 hours of public hearings at three locations to take testimony on draft regulations and received 69,000 submissions during a two-month public comment period, according to spokesmen Clarke Rupert and Kate O’Hara.
The commission scheduled a hearing for Nov. 21, 2011. Fox showed up with 2,000 protesters, but the meeting was canceled and has yet to be rescheduled.
A statement on the commission’s website says that as of May the commissioners are “convening meetings with their respective technical staff” as they consider rules for drilling.
As fracking continues in most of Pennsylvania, Wayne County residents are recognizing that public-works improvements tied to a gas boom aren’t going to happen.
“We expected better roads,” says Myron Uretsky, a retired New York University professor who owns a house in the town of Damascus, Pennsylvania. “We have no fire hydrants -— the gas companies were going to put them in.”
While many residents blame Fox for their troubles, he says they were naive to think drilling would ever be allowed in such an environmentally critical area. He faults the gas companies for dangling money in front of farmers without warning them of the potential problems.
“It was all sweetness and light,” he says. “‘You’ll make so much money.’ That’s exploitation, not prosperity. This was a bubble.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Roben Farzad in New York at email@example.com
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- Cabot Oil and Gas Recycles Fracking Water (wbng.com)
The Weaver’s Cove LNG terminal project was abandoned over a year ago, in June 2011, but Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin continues his effort by seeking standards that would help prevent such a project in the future.
On Wednesday, Kilmartin, joined by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, renewed a request to the federal government for rules for the location and siting of LNG import and storage facilities. Wednesday’s request comes in the form of an appeal filed in connection with an earlier petition for rulemaking directed to the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration within the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT).
This is the latest step in a petition that was first filed in September 2004. In early February, a lower official in the USDOT had denied the original request.
In support of the request, Attorney General Kilmartin stated, “While the State obviously had concerns about Weaver’s Cove’s proposal to construct an LNG facility in a densely-populated urban environment in Massachusetts, with tanker traffic transiting through actively-used Rhode Island waters, within close distance of populated shorelines, Rhode Island’s motives were – and remain – much more broad. Indeed, these motives apply to any number of other locations in close proximity to populated areas and heavily-used waters of Rhode Island on which future LNG developers may set their sights. The petition expresses concern not just about whether a single project goes forward, but over the need for USDOT to set standards that apply to any number of sites that could put Rhode Island’s citizens and natural resources at risk.”
Kilmartin added that “USDOT has continually failed to establish minimum safety standards for determining the location of LNG facilities and has only established minimum federal safety standards for the design of those facilities. We seek to correct this to prevent another unsuitable proposal like Weaver’s Cove in the future.”
The Weaver’s Cove LNG facility was proposed in December 2003 and became the target of an 8-year fight waged by the Attorney General’s office and other state officials to protect Narragansett Bay from hazards and closures.
Kilmartin said, “While that fight reached a successful conclusion when the developer withdrew the proposal in June of 2011, we do not want to have to have a repeat of that threat.”
- USA: Attorney General Seeks to Prevent Future LNG Terminals Near RI
- Incheon Terminal to Get LNG Cargo (South Korea)
- APLNG Completes 16-Year Loan (Australia)
- MEO Australia: WA-454-P Minimum Work Program Approved
- UK: LNG Tanker Due at Grain Terminal Today
- Australia: Chevron Launches Major Recruitment Drive
- USA: CB&I Net Income at USD 255 Million
- Indonesian LNG for Korea
- Russia: Joint Seminar on Gas Fuelled Ships
- Australia: Origin, Skills Queensland Launch New CSG Training Program
- USA: Sabine Pass LNG Gets Cargo (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Golden Pass LNG Plans Re-Exports (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Sempra Files with DOE to Export LNG from Cameron Terminal (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Seventeen LNG Cargoes Re-Exported in Jan-Nov (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Sierra Club Opposes Cove Point LNG Export Plans (mb50.wordpress.com)
- ExxonMobil Eyes North American LNG Exports (mb50.wordpress.com)
- USA: Cheniere, KOGAS Ink Sabine Pass LNG Deal (mb50.wordpress.com)
By MasterResource | Wed, 18 January 2012 01:33
“I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. … Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.”
The heavily funded and admittedly effective U.S. industrial wind lobby portrays its product as descending from old-world windmills. Close your eyes and you’ll surely imagine these magnificent machines gently turning in the breeze … each kilowatt arriving at your reading lamp courtesy of a rosy–cheeked Hummel child.
Existing solely to save the planet by generating clean, affordable and environmentally friendly electricity, you can be sure that any addition to the plant owner’s bank account is purely accidental.
In reality, the U.S. industrial wind business was rescued by Ken Lay and Enron with quick, low-risk profit as its core goal. As Gabriel Alonso, chief executive of Horizon Wind Energy LLC – one of America’s biggest wind developers, often reminds his employees … their goal isn’t to stage a renewable-energy revolution … “This is about making money!”
Once a Believer
I was not always this cynical. I wanted to believe that industrial wind would replace fossil fuelled power plants and, until two years ago, defended its arrival here. Like many West Virginians, I wanted the destruction of our mountains by those who profit from the blue diamond stopped … NOW!
I believed industrial wind offered the best opportunity to accomplish that goal and, even recognizing industrial wind also consumes our forest lands, it seemed an excellent alternative to the coal industry’s horribly destructive mountaintop removal mining process.
Sadly, once the layers of woulds, coulds and shoulds were peeled back, I found industrial wind failed to keep its environmental promises. Save the canned boilerplate responses to criticisms, the wind industry offered nothing conclusive to demonstrate it would significantly reduce emissions or close fossil fuelled plants. There is no conclusive evidence that one coal plant has been closed as a direct result of the installation of tens of thousands of wind turbines. Not one! I’ve asked advocates to name one facility. Answer … zippo!
I fully expect advocates to point to many studies which validate their woulds and shoulds. But the studies they point to carry their own fair share of woulds and shoulds as well.
We’re even asked to disregard the increased emissions generated by fossil fueled plants as they inefficiently try to compensate for wind’s constant variability and accept that, on their word alone, when the wind is blowing, a coal plant, somewhere, is not running. That’s equivalent to some self-appointed Giraffe Control Officer bragging that not one has been spotted in Charleston during his watch.
Consider this measure instead. US industrial wind capacity at the end of 2010 exceeded 40,000 MW. The U.S. has some 490 coal power plants with an average size of 667 MW. A direct one-to-one trade would have closed some 60 coal plants. Again … name one!
Bringing this closer to home … Edison Mission Energy is heavily invested in Appalachian coal-fired power plants even as it grows its Appalachian wind plants. Can we expect Edison to replace its fossil plants as it opens wind plants with equivalent MW capacity? Will any of the major players holding significant interest in both fossil fueled plants and wind plants make this commitment? I suggest they will not, as long as there is profit to be made from each.
The sad truth is that industrial wind does not replace fossil-fueled electricity generators. It does not reduce emissions. It does not provide affordable, on-demand electricity. The relatively miniscule amount of electricity generated typically arrives when it’s not needed and cannot effectively be stored. Industrial wind, true to Ken Lay’s intent, is a profit center founded on favorable legislation, mandated renewable energy goals and funded by taxpayer subsidies.
I did not come to the “dark side” willingly. At the suggestion of a friend, I attended a presentation on industrial wind at which the speaker systematically destroyed any notion that industrial wind has earned a seat at the US energy table.
Expecting yet another NIMBY rant, the presenter [ed. note: John Droz Jr.] instead based his case that industrial wind is a failed technology on science alone. There was little mention of view-shed, bat/bird kills, noise or health issues, all of which I’ve since learned are serious issues in their own right. The presenter focused primarily on the poor performance and high cost of industrial wind and the fact that it could never replace current generators, my main reason for initially supporting industrial wind.
Knowing that the two key representatives of our proposed wind plant were introduced as being in the audience, I could hardly wait for the question-and-answer session. This was going to be a knock down for the ages! Just wait until they set this clown straight!
Then, the presenter wrapped up and said the magic words I’d been waiting for … Any Questions? My gladiators stood up and walked out! Not a word! No defense! How could they let this brutal attack stand?
That was my turning point. Suspicion drove me to read any article I could find about industrial wind, and the more I learned the more I disliked these monstrous contraptions which were scheduled to invade my Appalachian Mountains by the tens of thousands.
What I Have Learned
Before this event, I was willing, like many of my friends, to sacrifice a mountain view, some bats and birds and even the hard earned tax dollars these wind folks would pick from my pocket if it meant the greater good would be served.
What I learned, however, lead me to the conclusion that there is no trade.
• Coal plants will continue to exist at pre-wind levels and the mines will remain open in order to supply them.
• Emissions will not be reduced as a result of industrial wind. When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a Bonneville Power Authority Representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.”
• Not only will the surface destruction brought about by mountain top removal mining not be reduced as a result of wind plants, industrial wind will bring destruction well above the ground in areas not previously impacted by mountain top removal.
• The cumulative impact of long stretches of deadly 450 foot tall whirlybirds along our fragile mountain ridges will set a deadly gauntlet for many migratory species with no real benefit to show for the sacrifice.
• The arguably unnecessary remote wind installations require long runs of forest fragmenting high power lines required to bring the occasional electricity generated to a point of use.
• My picked pocket only serves to benefit the wind developers.
I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. Sacrifice is, after all, a forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of something one considered to have a greater value or claim. Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.
My comments here are my own. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, but do not speak for the organization in this commentary. I serve as editor of the Allegheny Treasures blog, an amateur site intended not to answer questions, but instead to stimulate discussion of industrial wind among readers, as I hope to do in this piece.
I arrived at my opinions after all consideration to the argument presented by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other industrial wind support groups. I’ll be the first to admit I could be wrong, as I was when I supported industrial wind just two years ago. If a persuasive argument can be made to sway me back, I assure you I’ll happily move.
But I should warn you, the argument must begin with a list of coal- plant closings and not easily manipulated speculative “data.” Empty promises will not justify consuming even one more square inch of Appalachian forest.
Oh, before I’m criticized on the property rights issue … I firmly believe that you should be allowed to do anything you wish with your property as long as it brings no harm to others. But whatever you choose, don’t ask me to underwrite your adventure with my tax money in the form of subsidies, grants, or any other considerations from which you profit.
I am not insulted at the NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) moniker the wind advocates apply to me. I would take it one step further and suggest they call me a NOPE (not-on-planet-earth)!
I believe we are all responsible for our environment and must challenge every intrusion. We cannot accept, without question, the possibility that what has been portrayed as a solution may, in fact, create additional ills, no matter how much we want to believe.
Moving the country away from fossil fuels is one thing; choosing an alternative with no proven track record in accomplishing this effort, especially one with industrial wind’s potential for serious environmental destruction is quite another.
By. Michael Morgan
Michael Morgan is a “no party” West Virginian with a self-described “nose for nonsense.” A semi-retired Project Management and Transportation Consultant, he worked as Transportation/Materials Manager for an international manufacturer of large hydro turbine equipment and, before that, as Materials Manager with a Fortune 500 company.
“While I can’t claim to be an environmentalist,” Morgan adds, “growing up along the Allegheny Front dictates a respect for the environment and demands scrutiny of any intrusion.”
- (MONITOR) Ruth Lea: Wind power is one of the great follies of our age. #windfarms (dreadnoughtuk.wordpress.com)
- Wind power is expensive and ineffective at cutting CO2 say Civitas (telegraph.co.uk)
- Encouraging Investment Is Key To U.S. Offshore Wind Development (earthtechling.com)
- Scheme to finance onshore wind farms (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
“Today’s ruling is a blow to ratepayers, businesses, and municipalities who are being asked to bear billions of dollars in new electricity costs when other green energy alternatives are available at a fraction of the cost.
The good news is the increasingly clear reality that Cape Wind will never be built. Cape Wind has been denied FAA approval, has been denied critical Federal loan guarantees, has no utility willing to buy half its power, and cannot find investors. Those facts alone render this decision moot.”
- SJC confirms Cape Wind-National Grid power deal (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- After favorable court ruling, company chief says Cape Wind construction could begin within a year (boston.com)
- SJC Confirms Cape Wind-National Grid Power Deal (boston.cbslocal.com)
- SJC upholds DPU ruling approving sale of Cape Wind power to National Grid (boston.com)
- Cape Wind Power-Purchase Deal Upheld (earthtechling.com)
- Growing Cape Wind Opposition Brings Windfall Funds to Environmental Group (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- USA: Fight for Nantucket Sound Continues (mb50.wordpress.com)
Trump has already heavily criticised the plans and wrote to First Minister Alex Salmond saying that the proposal was “environmentally irresponsible”.
And now his lawyers have contacted Energy Minister Fergus Ewing requesting a hearing into the plans.
A letter, sent by Ann Faulds of legal team Dundas and Wilson, read: “A public inquiry into the proposed development is necessary to explore all material considerations, and to ensure a proper evidential base to inform Scottish ministers’ determination of the application.
“In particular, the potential economic impact of the proposed development on my client’s development, and by extension the regional and Scottish economy, has not been addressed in the environmental statement submitted in respect of the application.”
Trump’s son, Donald Jnr said he feared the public had not fully understood the impact the turbines could have and added: “I don’t think the public realise how close to the shore they are going to be, so I think there needs to be a hearing.”
But the windfarm, one-and-a-half miles from the course, and a £150million joint venture between utility company Vattenfall, engineering firm Technip and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, has generated hundreds of letters of support.
By Stephen Wilkie (express)
- Wind Farm Grave Yards (mb50.wordpress.com)
- The Netherlands: Norwind Installer and Ulstein Join Forces on New Offshore Wind Foundation Installation Vessel (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Wind Energy Update: Which Comes first? The Wind Farm or the Turbine? (prweb.com)